Friday, November 30, 2007

Fort stockton

Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re in Texas. East of I-25. Haven’t been there lately. We’ve been as far west as San Diego this trip. We’re way east of that now. Even after driving this far east though, we’re still in the west. We’re in West Texas.

I love driving this bus down the highway. West Texas speed limit; 80 mph. The truck speed limit is 70. Mostly we just hang with the trucks. We stop for the day before the driving gets old. As a side benefit to that, if you don’t drive more than about 300 miles a day, you only have to stop for fuel every other day. One tank in Benson Arizona; the next tank in Fort Stockton. Two more days before the next tank.

We didn’t see the roadrunner at the park in Las Cruces. We’ve stopped at the KOA in Fort Stockton however, and will eat at the Roadrunner CafĂ©. Chicken fried steak. A tradition.

Scaled quail, pyrrhuloxia, white-tailed deer and javelina.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Las Cruces

We’ve been looking for Montezuma Quail. We’ve been seeing Gamble’s Quail. We’ve moved on. We’ve been out west for a long time. We’re doing a major relocation.

Arizona to New Mexico. Patagonia to Las Cruces. East side of the Continental Divide again, but still out west. And at the rest stop at lunch… a flock of scaled quail.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Patagonia

Standing by the river in Parker Arizona last week, watching the ducks on the water, there was another guy standing next to me, watching the ducks on the water. We talked. “Nice weather.” “Where you from.” “Nice ducks.” We were there doing the same thing; admiring the ducks. But as the conversation progressed, differences developed. He started talking about the ducks that dove and what they ate; versus the ducks that just fed from the surface. I explained the differences between divers and dabblers and named a few for illustration. He described the difference between the two in terms of flavor. He much prefers those ducks that fly straight up when you spook them (dabblers) to those ducks that have to run across the water to take off (divers). The divers have a much stronger flavor because of what they eat. We came to admire exactly the same thing, but from completely different directions.

Here in Patagonia, we’re scouring the hillsides for Montezuma Quail. Montezuma Quail are plentiful, but they are very difficult to see. They hide in the tall grass and absolutely refuse to move until you almost step on them. You have to cover a lot of ground to spook a quail.

Our neighbors in the airstream trailer are here for exactly the same reason. They are having more luck than we are. They got 20 today. They have an unfair advantage, though. They have dogs that run though the tall grass flushing the birds for them. And they have guns. They brought two quail over tonight to show us what they look like. They even offered to clean a couple of them for us for dinner. We decided to go out for Mexican food instead.

Patagonia is a small town, but it has five restaurants. You’re probably wondering how we could choose among them for dinner tonight. It was easy. We went to the one that was open on Wednesday.

We’re still looking for the Montezuma Quail. We’re not going to put them on our life list until we spot some that are still breathing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Patagonia

We moved on. We left the western desert behind and drove southeast from Parker Arizona to Patagonia Arizona. We’re still in Arizona, but now we’re in rolling grassland at an altitude of 4,000 feet with mesquite trees and oaks, and streamside sycamores in the canyons. Southeastern Arizona, one of the top birding locations in the country. We get to catch up some work and see some birds we don’t usually get to see.

We’ve been looking for Montezuma Quail at the oak edges and Arizona Woodpeckers in the canyons. So far we’ve got Gamble’s Quail and Acorn Woodpeckers. Not new birds but always fun to find. We’re always on the lookout for new birds. We got four last May. We got up before dawn and went to the grouse dancing grounds. But then we didn’t get another new one until June, and didn’t get another until September. Today, finally, new bird! Gray Hawk. Got a good look at him standing on a branch right over the road. Gray bird with a black and white banded tail. Gray Hawk.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Parker

And one more view.

Parker

Mountain trails.

Parker

Some old mining stuff.

Parker

The hint and the answer.

Parker

The view of our camp.

Can you spot the Beaver coach in this picture?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Parker

I confused a few people. I’d better put the recent wine comment in context: Us, with an open wireless internet signal. Wine, the universal “thank-you”.

Regularly, someone next to us is so appreciative of the open internet signal that they want to do something nice for us in return. By far, the most frequent token of their appreciation is a bottle of wine.

The irony of the situation is that, even though I like wine (Judy doesn’t), I am a total wine-weenie (Remember, two glasses of Two-Buck-Chuck kicked my ass.)(Actually, one and a half glasses did the trick; I couldn’t make it through the second glass before I had to go lie down.). I can enjoy one glass of wine with dinner if I don’t plan on doing anything else that evening. Not a very efficient use of an entire bottle of wine; drink one glass and retire the remainder; but it’s the best I can do. Some of the wines I get are significantly better than the Two Buck Chuck, but no matter. One glass is my limit.

Thanksgiving

A quiet day on the river until Nikki caught a fish.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in Parker. Judy hasn’t had a holiday with her sister Sue in forty years. Come to think of it, I haven’t either. Well, we ended that run. Thanksgiving dinner with Sue, John, and family on the river. Nice.

Good food, good family, and Wii. Wii is the sports video game with hand-held controllers that require you to mimic the actual movements required for each sport. We played a little tennis and shot some pool, but it was bowling that dominated the evening. That’s a wild game; bowling.

Outside, a quiet day on the deck overlooking the river. Those little white dots on the water are bufflehead ducks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Parker

Another satisfied internet neighbor. Another bottle of wine. Sigh.

A South African Shiraz.

Parker

I guess it’s not all that unusual to see an out-of-range bird. Not by our recent experience anyway. We could never predict which out-of-range bird will show up, but I guess we can’t help from seeing something rare on occasion if we’re paying attention.

Now, already, it has happened again. We’ve got another eastern bird: a rose breasted grosbeak. We’ve seen this bird before, but never out in the desert southwest! He’s hanging out with a flock of white crowned sparrows. He’s not on the list of birds likely to be seen here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Quartzsite

We daytripped to Quartzsite in the Jeep to find out what the attraction is. Quartzsite used to be a stopover on a stagecoach route in the 1850s. It was called Fort Tyson then. Then it became Tyson Wells. Then the town got abandoned. Then mining brought it back as the small town of Quartzsite in 1897, until 1965 when they had their first Rockhound gem and mineral show. Actually, it still is a small town. They have a year-round population of 1,900 people.

A million people come to visit Quartzsite during January and February. It’s like the Burning Man Festival, but without the pretense of creating a “new society”. Burning Man is purported to be an all volunteer effort, but I checked out their website and they charge admission. Two hundred dollars per person. By my calculation the organizers collect $10,000,000 in admissions each year for their all volunteer event. I think I want to create an all volunteer “new society” social experiment too.

Quartzsite is like the Burning Man Festival, but it lasts two months instead of one week, they don’t burn anything at the end, and it’s free. There are eight major gem and mineral shows (after you’ve had one, why would you need seven more?). W saw a small fraction of the two thousand vendors. That’s a lot of tools, t shirts, and rocks for sale. If you want to spend the winter in the world’s largest open air flea market; a junker’s dream, you’ll want to be in Quartzsite.

They say 100,000 RVs. We believe it after touring all the open space in the desert. We got there with only about 1,000 RVs there. It was practically empty. I talked to a couple desert rats who were at the gas station filling up some water jugs. They told me it’s free to stay in the desert dry camping. There is a two week limit, but all you have to do is move every two weeks and you can stay as long as you want. That’s why my guys were there; for the free camping and warm weather. There are places in town you can go to dump your tanks and fill up on fresh water and propane. If you want some amenities, there is camping on BLM land with some facilities. No hookups, but some common washrooms. That costs $189 per season (you can stretch the season to nine months to get your money’s worth). If you want full hookups in a real RV park, those start at $139 per month. So if you want to spend the winter in a warm primitive place for practically nothing, you’ll want to be in Quartzsite.

Judy says we passed a giant Class A motorhome by the side of the road completely painted in camouflage, but I didn’t see anything.

RVs

Brother David’s dream RV, the back country camper, got featured in the November issue of Highways Magazine.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Parker

A quiet day at camp today in the coach. A full coyote serenade by the river tonight.

Tomorrow morning… a trip to Quartzsite to check out the 100,000 RV, 2,000 vendor, 1,000,000 visitor community that gathers in the desert each winter. Why would anyone want to do that? We’ll go early (November) to get the flavor of it before they all get here.

Thirty-five Parker birds so far. Highlights: quail (they’re always a highlight), black phoebe, and vermilion flycatcher.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Medical

Well we left the California desert behind, but the chest pain stayed with me. It may not be smog causing it, but it is clearly related to exercise. The doctor in Colorado told me to watch out for this pattern; so we went to the hospital in Parker, Arizona. Know what happens when an old guy walks into a hospital and says something about chest pain? Lots of attention real fast. They didn’t even make me fill out any paperwork first. I got stuff stuck in me, on me, and pointed at me. A very efficient team.

My EKG was fine. My blood enzymes were fine. My chest xray was fine. No sign of current or prior heart problems. Don’t know why my chest hurts when I exercise, but the good news is, until we figure it out, I can stop it from hurting by backing off the exercise.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Parker

Jacumba was good. We ended up getting crissal thrashers, abert’s towhees, and black phoebes. We drove the Jeep over through Borrego Springs the week before to look for the Le Conte’s thrasher but never found it. We looped around to the Salton Sea looking for the yellow footed gull, but he was gone for the season. Out through the Imperial Valley 200 feet below sea-level, freshly cut hay, and corn just going to tassel… IN NOVEMBER. Through Brawley, El Centro, back on Interstate 8. Speed limit 70. Truck speed limit 55. I imagine the biggest problem in heavy traffic would be accidents resulting from speed differential, but here, rather than have trucks go fast the same as cars, they’d rather trucks go slow and cars zip in and out around them. Must be more to it than I’ve considered. Past the turn to the twin border towns of Calexico and Mexicali. The Jeep cruise control is active, even on downhills. Before, our cars with cruise control maintained a steady speed on the level and uphill, but pretty much just gave up and coasted on the downhills. The Jeep cruise control downshifts and maintains the speed no matter what. Back up the steep boulder-field switchbacks to twenty-five hundred feet, and home again. Saw a bobcat cross the road at camp.

We’re not getting any “life birds” here, but getting plenty of birds we don’t see very often. If only we would go east of the Mississippi more often we’d get a whole bunch of new birds.

We took a day-trip in the Jeep on Sunday to see sister-in-law Barbara in Vista. A 200 mile round-trip over to the coast for some cool misty weather we haven’t had lately, as well as a side-trip to Angelo’s for a hot pastrami sandwich. Good visit with Barbara and her family. Alkaseltzer helped with the pastrami. A quick look at San Diego. A quick look at the Pacific. On the return trip drove past the lit-up stadium in the rain for the San Diego Chargers Sunday night game, and back to Jacumba.

Monday: travel day. Jacumba to Parker. In addition to all the other tow gear stuff (safety cables, electric connector for lights, compressed air line for brakes) we hooked up the breakaway cable. We’ve never hooked up the breakaway before. If things go horribly wrong, and the tow car separates from the coach, the breakaway cable will lock up the Jeep brakes and prevent it from traveling on indefinitely. Or, if something goes horribly wrong, and the breakaway locks up the Jeep brakes while it’s still attached to the coach, we get four screaming wheels behind us. I can see more possibilities for the second scenario than the first, but we’re supposed to hook it up so I did. Nothing went wrong. The jeep wheels rolled along quietly.

Easy navigation. Go a hundred miles east on Interstate 8. Turn left on highway 95. Drive another hundred miles. We’re settled in at Buckskin Mountain State Park right on the Colorado River for two weeks. We’ll be here for Thanksgiving with sister Sue and family. Got gambles quail, black phoebes, and a vermilion flycatcher.

We never adjusted to the time zone difference in California. Back to Arizona and Mountain time. Maybe we can quit waking up at five thirty or six and stay up past nine.

Lousiville property update

Nothing to report.

Lots of lookers. No buyers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jacumba

Birding dilemma. We put oranges out on the feeder and have been getting a hooded oriole. Then we got another bird, eating the other orange half, a little smaller than the 8” oriole. It’s obvious what it was, a 7” olive bird with black wings, a nonbreeding male scarlet tanager.

Problem is, it’s an eastern bird. We looked in the guide. It’s not supposed to be here. We’ve got an ABA guide “Birders Guide to Southern California”. It doesn’t show as rare on the bar chart. It is not even mentioned on the bar chart. We just called a bird that doesn’t belong here. Problem is, nothing else looks like it. Olive bird with black wings and a stubby bill. That’s the only bird it could be.

We hesitate to be the first person ever to call a bird in a place it has never been before. We’re just not that good (confident) at birding.

Continuing to scan the birder’s guide, I found the “seldom seen, but possible” page. Yes. The scarlet tanager. I’ll go with that. We saw a seldom seen, but possible bird.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jacumba

I’m really liking the way work is going. From the comfort of the desert wilderness we just did a job in Crested Butte Colorado. We love Crested Butte, but right now the temperature there is in the teens or single digits each night. Not a place we want to be in the coach in November. But the client has an August year-end, so this is the perfect time for them to get their work done. No phone available from here, but with email and fax it went well and finished up today, right on schedule.

We’ve already been exchanging the client data digitally between the coach and the office, but we made a couple improvements in the process this week. Earlier in the week we set up the offsite backup on the internet, so our daily work is protected. Data security at a minimal charge.

Today, we set up the online fax service. I have been able to scan and email anything to a client, but if they don’t have scanning capability they have had to fax their paper documents to the Denver office so Jamie could scan the faxes and email them to me. I haven’t been able to receive faxes because I’m not a stationary target. Traditional faxes want to go through a land-line. The internet fax service provides a toll-free fax number specifically for me, then forwards each fax to me as an email attachment. We just digitized one more step.

I like the way this is going.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Anza borrego

We’re in the southern foothills of Anza Borrego; elevation 2,500 feet; not the central part of the park. We took a drive to the central part, Borrego Springs. It’s a city at sea level, completely surrounded by the state park. Time came for a walk. Combined the walk with a search through the sparse desert vegetation for the LeConte’s thrasher. When I finished the walk, I was in a quandary. I’m supposed to tell Judy if I have chest pains; but I always have chest pains. I’m supposed to tell her when I have unusual chest pain. Our doctor told us the first symptom of heart trouble I’ll have will be exercised induced chest pain. This was definitely connected to exercise. Didn’t hurt at all until I started walking. Of course, there are other issues to follow, but it all starts with telling Judy. I was still working on whether the pain was unusual or not when Judy remarked on how much the air pollution was hurting her chest. That’s why it was familiar! It was smog! Looked across the valley that Borrego Springs is in, and there was a haze.

We are such weenies; just a dribble of smog over the California mountains and it hurts our lungs to breathe. No smog resistance left.

Jacumba

A walk around the perimeter of the campground. The tiny thunder of quail wings as we disturbed the evening wandering of a hundred birds. A lot of energy expended for a flight of fifty feet. Some birds had to escape several times.

The juncos, finches, sparrows, and siskins have discovered our feeders. Cactus wrens. Ladderback woodpeckers.

Life in the desert.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Anza borrego

The job finished up on Friday like it was supposed to. Saturday morning we said goodbye to the couple across the street, said goodbye to Jim and Elle. Said goodbye to Barbara and Wally, and headed west. West on Interstate 10 past the Picacho Peak Ostrich Farm and RV Park. West on Interstate 8. Past Gila Bend and Yuma, elevation 160 feet. This is the first time we’ve been below 1,000 feet since last March. We cross the California border, into the Pacific time-zone, and don’t change the clocks; we’ve been in Arizona. Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time.

It has been a strange time-zone trip for us. We went from mountain daylight time to mountain standard, without crossing a time zone, when we crossed into Arizona, so we changed the clocks. Then we crossed from mountain standard to pacific daylight time when we crossed into California, so we didn’t change the clocks when we crossed the time zone. But the funny thing is that we crossed into the next time zone on the same day the time changed from daylight to standard (in California), so we had to change the clocks anyway.

Passed the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area; packed with off-road vehicles buzzing up and down the dunes and a thousand RVs dry camping in the desert. Yuma, El Centro, Ocotillo, right along the Mexico border. We stopped at a quiet place, outside Anza Borrego Desert State Park. No cellphone service, but we’ve got email. We’ll stay here a week.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tucson

Happy Anniversary to us. November 1st. We’re starting our fourth year on the road. If you can get entrenched in not being entrenched, it’s happening to us.

Mesquite tree update. It’s an olive tree.

150 rigs checking in today for a motorcycle rally. Tomorrow morning they all take a group ride.

Talking to neighbors here in the park in Tucson, we discover that we’re talking to Don McKee’s half sister, Barbara, twenty years older than he. What a coincidence! We hang out with Don and Barbara Mckee in Louisville for thirty-five years, then we run into Don’s older sister in Tucson. And know what she, Barbara formerly-McKee is here doing? She and her husband are here for the motorcycle rally. Eighty-five years old, and they’re here for the motorcycle rally.

Things not to do while fifth-wheeling. Don’t drive off without the hitch latched in place. If you don’t latch it, the trailer falls off the hitch, lands on the back of the pickup, makes a loud noise, does some damage, and you feel stupid. It just happened to a neighbor of ours this morning. I think it happens eventually to most every fifth-wheel driver.

Had dinner tonight with Jim and Elle, last seen in Colorado, they just crossed the border from Mexico, and we happened to end up in Tucson at the same park at the same time.

Enjoying this life on the road. It’s a trip.

Happy Anniversary to us.